Santa Elena Travel Blog

 › entry 31 of 34 › view all entries

The dreaded border crossing into the notoriously dangerous Venezuela ended up being a cake walk.  POME Rob and I got a 14 hr night bus straight from Manaus to Santa Elena with no issues.  To my surprise and relief the border crossing was very clean, modern, fast, and stress free.  We did not have to get any tourist card at a Brazilian embassy as was mentioned in the lonely planet.  They did it all in a couple minutes at the border.

The bright green rolling hill upon crossing the border were fantastic.  We were met by the over the top enthusiastic Francisco at the bus terminal who meets all tourists on their way in from Brazil to try to set up tours to the Angel Falls and Roraima.

  We were not willing to commit to the first guy who rolls up in a leather tassel covered hog so we headed into town to get set up.

First on the list after dropping the gear in the clean $5 hostel was exchanging the Reals and USD that we had accumulated as directed by every backpacker we met who had been to Venezuela.  I still do not understand all of the reasons but the wealthy people are willing to pay a premium for foreign currency to protect themselves from local inflation due to such things as the upcoming revaluing of the Bolivar as well as the unrest that could develop due to the famous vote occurring on December 2nd.  Regardless of the reasons we were happy to get about 5300 Bolivars per USD compared to the bank rate of about 2100.

  This opened up plenty of possibilities for us and made tours that we expected to be out of the budget to be very affordable.

Santa Elena is small and word moves quickly.  We were approached by two other backpackers who were leaving to Roraima the following day because they heard that some new people arrived and they wanted us to come along to reduce the cost of the tour per head.  Mystic tours was the only agency that was leaving the next day, the price ($160 USD for 6 days) was right, so we tagged along.  The prep talk by the well published and well overweight Roberto was... odd.  His agency is called Mystic tours because he believes that Roraima is the center of all ancient buildings across the globe and this has made it a popular spot for UFOs to show themselves and even take people aboard.

  His two hour talk complete with indigenous painting of UFOs, published sighting maps, and portraits of the angel like captain of the craft made me bite my lip on several occasions.

The trek was fantastic.  We did it in 5 days rather than 6 because some people in our group needed to catch a flight. This ended up being for the best because were were all fairly fit and 3 days to get up would have been boring.  The first day consisted of the transportation to the small village at the start of the hike, waiting several hours to find porters because most have moved away to build houses for Chavez´s socialist programs, and finally walking about 4 hours through the rolling green savanna to the ever enlarging flap top mountain that is one of the oldest on the planet.

  The complaining came fast and furious starting with German Stephan who always got French Katrina and Rob going.  The organization was poor, and the food was worse but I have never been much as a complainer.  For the most part I tired to turn the griping into joking and turn the mood but some times the relentless grumping was too much for me and I had to walk off on my own.

Day 2 was one of the best days of hiking that I have ever done.  The eight hour trek from the base camp to the top of the world went through very diverse and technical terrain.  The grassy savanna blended into steeper rock covered hills.  The base of the mountain was covered in forest to so different than the Amazon.  There were very steep section in here requiring all four limbs to ascend the deep cut steps cut into the red and yellow clays from years of trekkers tracks.

  My full large pack with all my own gear seemed to get heavier when we got above the tree line and the trail became less obvious through the steep wet bolders.  Reaching the peak revealed  a rewarding view over the vast savanna and other tepuis i the distance.  We set up camp in a half covered cave to the complaints of most because the other tour had a better view on the other side of the mooscaped hill.

We quickly found out how fast the weather changes on the top of a flat top mountain during on day exploring the strange rock formations.  We awoke to sunshine but an hour into our exploration the clouds rolled over the the sides of our giant table and the rain began to fall.  In some ways this made the experience more mystical (no UFOs included).

  After lunch the clouds rolled out again and we had a sensational view to the mountains highest point.

The two day trek back to the starting point follows the same trail.  It was nice to have more time to enjoy the two rivers that we had to cross each way.  The last night we were able to get our hands on a couple dozen beers from porters from a different tour company.  I introduced the group to asshole and I am sure that they will all bring this game home to their respective corners of the globe.

charley_01 says:
I agree totally with your description of the trip although i have to say it looks from your photos as though you had better weather than i did - dry season? Your trip up 'Tears' looks a lot drier than mine!! i just wanted to congratulate you really, not only on your appreciation of one of the mst amazing views and treks in the world, but also on your successful bus journey to Santa Elena. I went with Los Llanos overnight bus company who guaranteed the journey in 10 hours; after breaking down, writing-off a car and being searched by the army for drugs 4 times we arrived 42 and a half hours after leaving ciudad bolivar! still, the tepuis was sooo worth it!
Posted on: Dec 26, 2007
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Santa Elena
photo by: razorriome